“Good Dudes Only” – Brandon Naurato speaks at TCS Live

TCS Live 2023 - Brandon Naurato
The face of hockey in Michigan, Brandon Naurato, addressed burning issues affecting coaches during a TCS Live interview with Dr. Kathy Babiak.

“Would a good dude do that? If not, we don’t do it here.”

That’s the motto Brandon Naurato uses to build culture inside the University of Michigan’s men’s hockey locker room. As an interim Head Coach last season, Naurato led Michigan to a Frozen Four appearance in his first year behind the bench. Prior to the National Semifinal game, Naurato was hired full-time, signing a five-year contract and effectively making him the face of hockey in Ann Arbor.

TCS Live 2023 - Brandon Naurato

During Day 2 of TCS Live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Naurato sat down with Dr. Kathy Babiak, a professor of Sport Management and Director of the Michigan Center for Sport & Social Responsibility at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology, to talk about his experiences during his first season as coach of the Wolverines and his unique style of leadership. As a team, Michigan faced a mountain of adversity in the 2022-2023 season that included the passing of a longtime equipment manager and multiple players being hospitalized due to a virus outbreak. Naurato admitted to the audience that he is still learning how to be a leader, and how that type of vulnerability can be beneficial for a coach trying to gain the trust of his players.

Despite his young age, his team’s response to hardship shows his effectiveness and how well he resonates amongst his players. Naurato strives to be a positive leader: someone who encourages players and focuses on highlighting strengths, instead of breaking down athletes and exposing weaknesses. This is accomplished by getting to know his players on a personal level, and also learning how they want to be coached. Naurato makes an effort to help players in their personal lives, making sure that family or relationship issues aren’t harming a player or keeping them from reaching their potential. Naurato even joked about how his team went on a seven-game winning streak after a group of players ended relationships with their girlfriends.

Dr. Babiak continued the presentation by outlining recent research suggesting how positive leadership and coaching can be more effective in motivating players. Naurato meets with players 1-on-1 and often sends surveys to the team to understand how they respond and prefer to be coached. This way, Naurato is able to tailor his coaching style to each individual player in order to get the most out of them both on and off the ice. Naurato has learned that most players prefer honesty and transparency and that a coach needs to be firm and hold the team accountable. Although accountability and learning are key, Naurato will never single out a player in a group setting and still strives to be himself and have fun with his team.

Naurato’s coaching style is player focused, and he hopes the audience in attendance was able to take away key strategies on how to build confidence in athletes. Although Michigan fell short of its goal of capturing a national championship, the ability to overcome adversity against a steep learning curve has Naurato and the Wolverines poised to break through in the very near future.

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Andrew Leary

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